August 2019

International Search Engine Optimization

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Is your website set up for International Search Engine Optimization?

A recently published EU report shows that people within the EU are increasingly buying online services or products in other countries. Is it time for your company to also enter the international market? Is your product or service outside the Dutch borders also interesting enough to be found? Yet you see too little foreign traffic coming to your site with your existing SEO approach? Then it can be a very great time to get started with international SEO.

What is your current international SEO status?

It is very vital to gauge your current international SEO position. Just like within the Dutch market, international search engine optimization should always start with some very good research. This gives you insight into your current (international) track record and it makes it easier to determine where your priorities and objectives with regard to your international strategy must lie. With a baseline measurement you can measure your current international findability, traffic and results.

You can filter these results from the baseline measurement to help understand your positioning strategy better:

  • Which countries ensure organic findability and traffic of your site?
  • Is there a line in this? Is traffic increasing or decreasing? Does this differ per country?
  • Which specific keywords and pages score well internationally?
  • What is the CTR (Click Through Rate) and how many conversions do your existing keyword pages yield?

If all goes well, these questions from the baseline measurement give a good picture of where you are at the moment. The task now is to collect as much relevant data as possible. Useful tools such as Google Analytics and Search Console can help you collect and organize data. Subsequently, the collected data will show that there are still few visitors from certain countries. These are great opportunities, because there can be enormous search potential here. International search engine optimization provides a good insight into opportunities that you may not have noticed before. With the next step, a keyword research, you can find out where those opportunities lie.

International keyword research

An essential element in your international search engine optimization is keyword research. With this you discover where there are hidden opportunities for you. It shows which keywords are relevant to your industry or target group. Which success factors play an important role in running a successful international SEO campaign?

  • This research helps you analyze which keywords and phrases are relevant to your international target group: what do they search for when they are looking for your service or product?
  • The search volume for these specific keywords by country.
  • Who are your international competitors? This provides insight into the steps to take to optimize a specific keyword.
  • Your current position of those keywords in the relevant countries.

This data gives you a clear picture of where there are international difficulties for you and where you can seize opportunities that you have never seen before. With international search engine optimization, it is an advantage if you speak the language of the international target group you want to reach. If you want to enter the German market, for example, it is an advantage to speak the German language because you are better able to do a good German keyword research. Do not hesitate and seriously consider using a native speaker for international keyword research who can optimally assist you in your international search engine optimization.

Set language: technical tips

Technical tips for using the right language for optimization already exist and should be implemented whenever you want to go international. We can simply and conveniently work with your website builder to achieve this. For example, in international search engine optimization, it is important to indicate in which language you want to be found. Google uses the Hreflang tag to determine the language of a website, so Google knows which version of a page to show to a user.

To prevent a German visitor from seeing a French page, which does not contribute to a good user experience, it is essential that this Hreflang tag is set up properly. In the header of the website you place the Hreflang tag where you specify all possible language versions of a page. Also, by setting the Hreflang tag, you can prevent translated pages from being considered duplicate content.

Setting an x-default is also recommended. The x-default tells Google which version to show if a visitor falls outside the available languages. Also set your Sitemap to the different languages and do the same in Google Search Console. In Google Search Console you can indicate in subfolders what the intended country-language combination is. It is also advisable to specify your country code in your HTML code in which you can set the primary language. Ask your SEO advisor for advice on setting up these technical help tips.

Which search engine should I use?

You are busy putting your company on the map with international search engine optimization outside the Dutch borders. With a good international SEO plan, you will soon have all the knowledge and tools you need to start working internationally. But which search engines should you specifically target? That of course depends on which markets and opportunities you focus on.

Commonly used search engines worldwide:

  • Baidu - China
  • Yahoo - Taiwan & Central and South America
  • Yandex - Russia
  • Guruji - India
  • Google - Virtually all other countries

It can be advisable to get good advice from an international SEO specialist who assists you in your international search engine optimization and who has specific knowledge about the globally used search engines. We know the global search engines and their associated tactics including knowledge about global site structures, technical considerations, international content, marketing, strategies, cultural usability and conversion. We usually switch with native speakers.

Domain name: ccTLD or gTLD?

What type of domain name should you choose if you want to work internationally? Two options exist: a ccTLD domain or a gTLD domain. We will explain what the difference is and discuss its suitability for your international search engine optimization.

ccTLD

Country Code Top Level Domains:

These are domain names specific to countries. Think of domain names of Dutch websites ending in .nl, or a German website ending in .de or a British website ending in .co.uk. The advantage of this type of domain name is that it inspires a lot of trust among local users. A German would rather buy something in a German webshop than in a French one. Washing machines.de will inspire more confidence than the Spanish variant washing machines.es. At the same time, this is a problem with international traffic: as a Dutch webshop with a .nl domain name, it is more difficult to do business in Germany. Unless you open a German-language version with a .de domain name attached to it. That would look like this:

  • upmention.nl
  • upmention.co.uk
  • upmention.de
  • upmention.es
  • Etc

There are situations where this is desirable, but advice is always tailor-made and also has to do with history and future plans.

gTLD

Generic Top Level Domains:

These are domain names that end in .com. This means that this type of domain name is not tied to a specific country. This also applies to .edu, .gov, .biz domains. These are also gTLDs. Because these types of domain names are generic, they are very suitable for international SEO and therefore for your international search engine optimization. Because it creates a lot of trust internationally, a .com domain is a good choice if you want to do business internationally, in several countries at the same time. Don't forget to offer your users the choice to switch to the desired language of the website. With subfolders you can make several language versions of your site available. That looks like this:

  • upmention.com
  • upmention.com/en/
  • upmention.com/de/
  • upmention.com/es/
  • Etc.

Don't just throw your old trusted .nl website and turn it into a gTLD .com site. It is of course good that you have built up a lot of value and trust over the years with your country extensions. You don't just trade that in. If your largest customer base is located in the Netherlands and a smaller part is from Germany, it pays to keep your ccTLD domain (.nl) and sometimes you can even choose to serve German customers with a subfolder such as heinosoft.nl /de/. The following also applies: customization based on your history and your future plans.

International link building

The rules of link building are much the same outside the Dutch borders. Relevance is perhaps the most important in international search engine optimization. Wanting to score on the German market with links from the Dutch website is not an option, although a smart link can be made through the technical structure of the website. Google will consider the Dutch links as less relevant than a link from Germany, with the desired score in Germany.

Relevance is therefore also the keyword in international SEO. If you want to score on the British market with only links from Dutch websites, it will also be difficult to be on the first page with competitive keywords. Google considers those Dutch links as less relevant than a link from Great Britain. Not only the country of origin is an important factor, the specific content of the source page also counts. Read our blog about link building again.

Speed of your website with international search engine optimization

If you want to put your successful Dutch software company better on the map in, for example, in the USA, you want your .com website to work as fast as your trusted .nl site. With international SEO, a greater challenge is to guarantee the same speed in different locations. The country in which your server is hosted plays an important role in this:

Your Dutch website is hosted on a Dutch server. When your American visitor visits the website, a request first goes to the Netherlands, where your server is located.

The server then sends the requested data back to the US. Simply put, for this request, data is sent twice over a great distance before your American visitor can see the site.

To tackle this distance problem, you can have your website hosted in the country where many of your potential customers are located. In the case of this example, therefore, the US. If you find this too cumbersome, you can also have your website hosted by a CDN for international purposes. That stands for Content Delivery Network. In other words, a worldwide network of servers on which a version of your website is stored. In practice, this means that when a US visitor visits your website, the CDN ensures that it connects to a server in the US. This keeps the distance between your international users and the server minimal, which ensures a fast website abroad.

It is therefore very important to get good advice from your SEO specialists such as upMention, since we have high knowledge of international search engine optimization. We currently have several customers we work with country extensions per country and therefore also a local (proxy) server.

In conclusion, with a good plan for international search engine optimization you ensure that you can be found for your target groups globally, in different nationalities and languages. This can really lead to a significant increase in new leads resulting in more customers and more sales. So let your Dutch trading mentality run and go overseas!

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